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Ambitious New York Express reporter Steve McCleary delivers his latest scoop on a brutal murder to his executive editor and mentor, Mark Chapman, who is pleased. Chapman then attends a meeting called by stockholders upset by the paper's slide into tabloid excess, but Chapman points out that the steady rise of circulation is providing large dividends. When feature reporter Julie Allison loses a bet with Steve, she is forced to take him and Chapman out to dinner. On the way, the trio runs into Charlie Barnes, a formerly successful editor now on the skids, whom Julie tries to help. After dinner, Chapman and the others attend an Express -sponsored event called the Lonely Hearts Club, where singles are enticed by slick prizes to find a possible mate. Chapman is stunned when Charlotte Grant, the wife he abandoned twenty years earlier, approaches him from the crowd. Chapman agrees to speak with her and they go to her run-down room, where she demands an explanation for his behavior and change of identity. Chapman offers her a hasty divorce and settlement, but when Charlotte announces her intention to ruin Chapman by disclosing his past, he angrily shoves her against the wall, causing her to strike her head sharply against a pipe and die. Frightened, Chapman hastily removes all Charlotte's personal identification, a pawn ticket and the Lonely Hearts Club membership tag and destroys everything except the pawn ticket. The next morning, Steve is the first reporter at the murder scene and discovers pieces of the Lonely Hearts tag. After getting additional information from a contact at the morgue, Steve matches the crime photo with the Lonely Hearts Club's member photo, but still has no identification. He excitedly presents the photos and melodramatic story to Chapman, who shakily agrees to release an extra edition with a feature on the Lonely Hearts murder. Later that evening, Chapman goes to the pawnshop, but just outside runs into Charlie. Anxious to get rid of him, Chapman thrusts some money at the older man, not realizing the pawn ticket is included with the bills. Chapman hurries away and, curious, Charlie uses the ticket to claim a suitcase. Inside he discovers two framed photos, one of Charlotte with a man in profile, and the other of Charlotte and Chapman. Recognizing Charlotte from the newspaper account and realizing Chapman must be her murderer, Charlie hastens to a bar, where he calls Julie and declares he knows the identity of the killer. Certain that Charlie is drunk, she gives the phone to Steve, who laughs at Charlie's declaration and suggests he tell his story to the competing newspaper, The Leader . Meanwhile, in his office, Chapman realizes he has lost the pawn ticket and learns of Charlie's accusation from Steve. Charlie takes the photo of Charlotte and Chapman and leaves the other in the suitcase at the bar. A block away from The Leader offices, however, Charlie is stopped by Chapman, who demands the photo, then beats the older man to death. The next morning at the morgue, Steve, who is upset by Charlie's death and Julie's emotional response, investigates and quickly locates the suitcase, which, along with the remaining photo, includes papers with a marriage date in Connecticut. Steve takes the articles to Chapman and states that he believes the woman's husband is the man in the photo and that he must be the murderer. Chapman agrees to let Steve publish the photo and continue his pursuit, even posting a $1,000 reward for more information. Steve rounds up several tramps to get details about Charlie's final hours, and one man admits to seeing Charlie speaking with a man on the street outside the pawnshop. Steve brings the man to Chapman, but he fails to recognize him. Later that afternoon, Steve discovers that Julie has resigned and goes to her apartment to convince her to help him solve the case. She agrees to help him scour Connecticut records to find the judge or clergyman who married the couple in the photo. Chapman grows anxious, but allows Steve and Julie to go to Connecticut for a week, then calls Connecticut information to find Judge Hacker, with no results. After three days, Steve and Julie have no information, and Chapman orders them to return. Steve insists on staying the full week and shortly afterward receives a call from the retired Judge Hacker, who has a photograph matching the one posted. Steve wires Chapman and late that night at the Express offices, Steve and Julie bring in Judge Hacker, who has identified the photo as that of George and Charlotte Grant, a couple he married twenty years earlier. Chapman orders the judge to be placed in protective care at a local hotel, but when he offers to privately escort him, Judge Hacker refuses, having recognized him. Steve is incredulous, but Julie believes him and declares that traces of hair and skin under Charlotte's nails can support the judge's claim. When Chapman draws a gun and confesses, an appalled Steve calls the police. Lt. Davis arrives just as Chapman is giving Steve instructions on how to lay out the next day's paper with the confession headline. When Davis draws his gun upon hearing the details, Chapman turns and fires into the ground, and Davis shoots and kills him. With Steve's story about the Lonely Hearts murder in the morning paper, Express circulation hits an all-time high.